Friday, 11 January 2008

Does it say what it does on the box? Sugar, salt and fat content revealed, or is it?

Watched an interesting program "The Truth About Food" last night on Channel 4 (UK TV) in which the journalist Jane Moore investigated whether we know what we are actually eating when we buy food from the supermarket. Does it say what is does on the box?

It seems food labels aren't really telling us the truth about the fat, sugar and salt content of our food and there is quite a margin for error which is Government approved. The program revealed for example that the two out of six samples of the Sainsburys Chicken Tikka Masala had a third more fat than stated on the label whilst another had 91 per cent more fat. Yes, that 's right - 91 per cent more fat! How can this be? Well Government guidelines do allow manufacturers a margin of error of up to a whooping 30 per cent on fat or salt content. Jane Moore pointed out that there are more stringent guidelines on the content of the food we feed our animals in the UK than for the food we ourselves eat! This is crazy!

One of the breakfast cereals investigated had 1/4 of RDA of salt in one (small) serving. The percentage content was the equivalent to the amount of salt in sea water. This is what we are feeding our children and ourselves.

Supermarkets labeling seems to be in a mess. Well I find it totally confusing. I spent about 10 minutes the other day in the supermarket trying to figure out with breakfast cereal was better for me but the portion sizes were different, the labels looked different. I mean come on! Should it be this hard? I was sadly not shocked to find out that the Government has not enforced one labeling system for all supermarkets to use. Why is it taking so long to get this right? Obesity is a growing problem here and issues like this need to be seen to. Consumers obviously need some guidance. It could also be that Tesco and the big food manufacturers have rejected the colour-coded traffic light labelling backed by the Government in favour of a system based on the recommended daily amount of nutrients. It was pointed out on the Dispatches program last night that there is evidence that the Guideline Daily Amounts were set 20 years ago and are in need of serious revision.

I thought this program was highly informative and gave a good flavour for thinking a bit more about what is in our food rather than necessarily believing what the supermarkets tell us is in our food. I would be interested in seeing a more in detailed review into all of the subjects investigated but they did well for the time available.

I then watched the beginning of Super Size me for good measure. Morgan Spurlock-you're great!

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